Freedom from desires

I’m beginning to understand why some spiritual teachings talk about having no desires.

It’s not that they have no desires or preferences, but that they have learned to find happiness independent of external conditions.

This is not an outright denial of desire, but an acknowledgement that we do not need to wait for the fulfilment of desire in order to feel good.

Just thinking about the things we desire brings us the good feeling, so long as we don’t counteract it with thoughts of obstacles and unwanted conditions.

But “freedom from desire” is not as advertised. More like freedom from conditionality. Freedom from requiring desires to be physically manifested before we can feel good.

You don’t need to eliminate desires. You can’t. Just recognise that you can feel good right now without needing to see it first. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.

It’s a game…19!

If I were helping a friend navigate the “create your reality” game, how would I go about it?

Be honest…where are you emotionally?

The first thing would be an honest assessment of where you are emotionally on a daily basis.

For many people this is straightforward: a mix of positive and negative emotion.

For others it is predominantly negative emotion.

And for a minority it is both negative and also obscured by defence mechanisms like emotional inhibition.

That’s not to say this third group is lacking positive emotions, just that it isn’t immediately clear to them how they are feeling.

Some people can’t tell the difference between how they feel, and how they think they should feel.

Feeling good…or just a little less bad?

Where you are emotionally will determine the next step.

If you are in a mix of positive and negative emotion, your aim would be to focus on the positives and stop activating the negatives.

Whatever is going well for you, draw on that more. When negatives arise you can start finding better-feeling thoughts on those subjects.

If you’re feeling really good you can even start visualising and imagining things you’d enjoy having in your life!

But if you’re more on the negative end of the scale these efforts would backfire. Trying to feel really good when you’re in a persistently negative place is like trying to go jogging when you’re meant to be in rehab.

Vibrational rehab

People who feel persistently bad have usually spent many years practicing patterns of thoughts and attitudes that cause negative emotion.

One of these patterns is called “all-or-nothing” thinking in cognitive behavioural therapy. That’s the kind of thinking that says “learning to walk again is too slow, I’m going to start running!” Or “getting out of debt won’t solve my problems, I need to get rich right now!”

Or more directly if these analogies don’t grab you: “feeling less bad isn’t enough. I want to feel amazing!”

At the heart of this all-or-nothing attitude is resistance that leads to impatience and self-sabotage. You may not think you are sabotaging yourself but the bottom line is feeling so bad about where you are that you’ll only make a move if you’re guaranteed a radical and immediate transformation.

The challenge here is that accepting a small improvement means acknowledging how bad you feel already. We want to think we are close to our goal of feeling wonderful, and the more modest goal of feeling “slightly less awful” is like a slap in the face.

Learning to focus

But like any skill, deliberately feeling good cannot be faked. Whatever your learning process looks like (and biting off more than you can chew is also a learning process) the end result must include the ability to soothe negative emotions and allow positive ones to gain momentum.

I’ve spent three years working on this material, after more than 30 years of developing habits of thought that didn’t serve me – as well as many that did serve me.

The best way is to practice feeling slight relief. Deliberately finding a feeling of relief repeatedly throughout your day.

Finding relief is the mechanism of alignment. It is the way of opening up to the pure positive energy of your inner being.

Don’t think that slight relief is “not enough”. Just like the rehab example: relief is to feeling good as learning to bear weight on your legs is to running.

There’s not a single skill you’ve ever learned that didn’t start with the most modest attempt. Children must learn to sit up before they can stand, stand before they can walk, and walk before they can run. At not a single point do they beat themselves up for not running straight away.

Feeling good is something you’ve never deliberately practiced before. Cut yourself all the slack in the world and practice feeling relief, and applaud yourself every time you do!

It’s a game…18!

If you practice feeling good/better/less bad/relief you will gradually encounter and then release all resistance within you.

You don’t have to go looking for it. It’s just like water flowing into a river and gradually eroding all obstacles and blockages.

And spontaneously issues will arise, discomfort, negative emotion and resistance. All you need to do is find relief and the answers will come.

Today my path of feeling good has brought me relief from some more resistance.

I learned as a child that I was wrong to feel good when those around me felt bad. I was told – and eventually accepted – that it was unfair and selfish for me to be happy when those around me were unhappy.

From this I understood that before I could legitimately be happy I had to share in the burdens and problems that were responsible for other people’s unhappiness.

As a simple example: it was put to me that I was happy because I wasn’t responsible for the upkeep of the family home. My compassionate response was to help, to lessen the burden on those who were suffering.

It took me many years to learn that this kind of “suffering” was not caused by burdensome tasks. Rather, people’s attitude and vibration of burden and suffering caused them to find corresponding tasks and use them as excuses to stay out of alignment with their own inner being.

There was nothing I could do to help a misaligned person find their alignment. The best thing I could have done at that time or at any time is to find my own alignment and not add momentum to others’ stories of trouble and woe.

The best and most compassionate thing I can do for anyone is to begin with compassion and love for myself, which means allowing myself to feel relief and practicing feeling good regardless of conditions and circumstances.

I don’t need others’ permission for me to feel good. I don’t need others to be happy as a prerequisite for my own happiness. I can be happy right now, and let those good feelings be enough for me.

It’s a game…17!

When we focus on unwanted conditions we feel bad.

When we focus on wanted conditions we feel good.

But what actually feels good or bad is our alignment or misalignment of thought/vibration relative to our inner being.

Alignment feels good, so why don’t we practice it all the time? Why do we focus on things that feel bad?

It’s because we think that having the conditions we desire right now will make it easier for us to find good-feeling thoughts about them, appreciate them in more depth and detail, and thereby find even greater alignment more easily.

Which is partly true – it’s easier to appreciate a bright sunny day when it is actually bright and sunny, as opposed to when it is raining and dark.

It’s easier, but often we take these good things for granted; the habit of thinking “I’d feel better if…” is pernicious.

After all, that’s what you are doing right now: you’re thinking “I’d feel better if…” and ignoring all the things that are already manifested and going well for you.

So the “I’d feel better if…” attitude is theoretically true but actually false. You won’t feel better if you have the physical manifestation of what you desire, because you’re practiced in the attitude of “I’d feel better if…” and so you will soon turn your attention to something else that is lacking or unwanted in your experience.

That’s why it is more powerful to practice appreciating things that are already going well for you, however small and taken for granted they may be.

The ideal is to accept that feeling good, feeling better is the real essence of our desire, and (don’t panic) find a way to feel good/better right now and let that be enough, even though your physical conditions aren’t how you want them to be.

It’s a game…16!

Feeling good right now.

There’s a bit of a paradox in the create your reality game: by feeling good you allow yourself to receive the physical manifestations of your desires and preferences. But the catch is that you have to feel good right now in the absence of your desires.

We don’t want to. We’re afraid that if we feel good without our desires being fulfilled, our desires will never come. We are afraid that if we’re happy right now God or the universe or our inner being will say “well if you’re happy with how things are, there’s no need to change”.

It takes a bit of nudging to go from thinking “how can i be happy in the absence of my precious desires” to something more like “I might as well feel really good while I wait!”

And that’s how it works. If you can feel good right now without needing to look at physical manifestations that please you, then you are on the right track. But so long as you’re thinking “…and then I’ll get what I want and be truly happy” it won’t come.

It’s a game…04!

Do you love life?

I didn’t. I ****ing hated it. Despised it. Resented and despaired of it.

And like most people I thought I would like life more if it would change first.

But that’s not how it works. After many years I’m beginning to love life, not because life changed, but because I finally understood that loving feels so much better than hating. And when life feels good it’s hard not to love it.

That’s a little glib, so let me break it down to practical steps.

First I learned that I create my reality through the vibration of my thoughts. My whole experience of life is a perfect match for the vibration of my thoughts.

Second I learned that I could control my focus, and deliberately focus on thoughts that feel better instead of thoughts that feel worse.

Third, after doing that for a while I discovered I could find thoughts that feel really really good, so satisfyingly good that I make time to sit down and write out those thoughts and really relish them because they feel so good. At least three times a day I’m taking time to focus on these really good-feeling thoughts.

Feeling that good regularly also overflows into the rest of life. I’m letting go of negative thoughts and circumstances…because why would I spend time focusing on thoughts that feel bad when I could be enjoying feelings of delight and eagerness and satisfaction?

Delight, eagerness, satisfaction, the more I feel these feelings the stronger and more frequent they become.

So let’s put that together: I’ve gone from being someone who hates life and feels doubly burdened by every unwanted experience and circumstance, to someone who can feel profoundly good feelings at will, and, lo and behold, I find myself beginning to love my experience, my reality, my life.

It’s not so surprising in hindsight, but I had to let go of a lot of resistance to even be open to the idea of feeling better.

And I’m not content with just feeling better…I’m not choosing blissful ignorance over harsh realities. I wouldn’t have followed this path if I hadn’t found to my own conviction that I really do create my reality.

The Abraham-Hicks teachings reconcile perfectly with my spiritual and philosophical knowledge and experience. Feeling good doesn’t just feel good, it’s also why we are here, the purpose of our existence: joy, freedom, expansion…life in its fullness.

Practicing happiness 30

It’s a vibrational game!

What a fitting subject for my 30th post in this series!

I am coming to understand that happiness is a vibrational game. What this means is that the vibration of your thoughts or attention matters. It’s the vibration that really counts – not the words, not the subject, not the meaning, not the context.

I’ve tried to “let go” of resistance by analysing, unpacking, and trying to shift it. But that’s not what letting go looks like.

I thought there had to be some process of unlocking, undoing, reprogramming resistant thoughts; but so long as I’m focused on those resistant thoughts, that’s the vibrational signal I’m broadcasting!

Even though it felt like progress, even though I could recount great narratives of my realisations; I was still broadcasting resistance.

That’s not letting go. Letting go is…bypassing. Letting go is changing the subject. Letting go is focusing somewhere else. Letting go is going around the obstacles in my path rather than trying to remove the obstacles.

That’s why it’s a vibrational game. All that matters is the vibration you are broadcasting and you know it by how it feels.

I love knowing that I create my reality. I love knowing that I attract everything into my experience. I love knowing that my experience and my feelings are a perfect match to what I’ve been broadcasting, and I love knowing that I can change what I broadcast. And I really really really love knowing that it’s easy to change what I’m broadcasting, I just need to focus on anything that feels good.

Like any game it takes practice to get better at it. It took me lots of practice to realise that it was a game! But now I know, and it will keep getting easier and more fun as I continue.

Every time you feel bad, switch to a thought that feels good. Spend time writing out thoughts that do feel good, and more will come. Relish the good feeling these thoughts bring you, and when you notice you’ve stopped feeling good, take the time to get back in that good feeling vibration again, and don’t beat yourself up when you fall out!

Practicing happiness 19

Nothing is more important than that I feel good.

It’s easy to say, but takes some work to really internalise this principle. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m learning more each day.

I’m learning that “good” isn’t always within reach. In which case aim for “better” or “less bad”.

If you’ve suffered chronic anxiety and depression with underlying complex trauma you’re probably going to need to aim for “less bad” for a while.

Still it’s a useful question: is there anything more important than me feeling good right now?

Well yeah: looking after the kids. Helping out my wife. Doing work. Running errands. All of those are more important than how I feel. They need to get done, and if I fail to do them I’m basically failing as a human being.

See? I told you it was a useful question.

Having beliefs like that explains why you don’t feel good. And that’s another useful measure: if I don’t feel good, I probably (definitely?) don’t actually believe there’s nothing more important than me feeling good.

I can easily say “nothing is more important than that I feel good” but that’s not what I really think.

So how can I close that gap?

Because if I really think that, I’m much more likely to act in accordance with it. And before I even act in accordance with it I’m going to feel tuned into it. That thought is going to orient my whole approach to life and help me create a reality that feels good to me.

And obviously that’s going to include things I want, like my kids being happy and healthy and a good relationship with my wife and enjoyable fulfilling work and everything in life unfolding in satisfying ways.

But in the meantime how do I close the gap?

I think the general direction is to act according to the thought, even if I haven’t fully accepted it or still hold contradictory thoughts.

If I start acting as though I really believe nothing is more important than that I feel good, I will add momentum to that thought.

At the same time I might start to notice I have false premises or resistance on some issues. For example: why do I think some important activities (like looking after my kids) are not compatible with feeling good?

Surely there are ways of doing that (housework, study, work, family duties) that are compatible with feeling good?

I’ve accomplished this before on the subject of cleaning my kitchen: I went from feeling resentful that I am forever cleaning my kitchen, to feeling really good about having a beautiful, tidy, clean kitchen – while allowing that it doesn’t have to always be in that state.

That proves it’s possible to change perspective, to find a way to feel good, and that means I really can believe that nothing is more important than that I feel good.

Practicing happiness 17

Because of my unique experiences, temperament, and response to my environment, I ended up with a preference for strategies that internalise conflicts.

I didn’t feel that I had much control in my early life. But by turning within, I found I could control myself, or at least how much of myself I expressed to others.

This strategy is called emotional inhibition. When I discovered mysticism I saw an immediate parallel: it seemed that the mystics found within themselves a transcendent power. They too looked within and thereby overcame both internal and external limitations.

So instead of seeking control over my external world, I sought greater control over my internal world, convinced that I could thereby master both. But how?

Inhibiting negative emotions was relatively straightforward, at least in the short term, but the mystics also somehow mastered positive emotions, finding a mysterious “something” via meditation, absorption, prayer, knowledge, or sheer focus.

If that sounds suspiciously vague for a “how to”, well therein lies the endless search for answers.

On a day-to-day basis I’ve been perpetually trying to find positive emotional states that permanently overcome negative ones.

While I pursued it under the guise of mysticism, it hasn’t really changed from the early strategy of emotional inhibition – the belief that I could overcome or avoid conflict by internalising it.

That’s a tremendous expectation for self-control, but imagine if it worked! Imagine being able to completely transcend and free yourself from the suffering and struggle around you. Imagine being able to feel pure joy and love and appreciation within you at all times. And imagine knowing that this feeling is the very presence of the divine metaphysical being within you.

That’s the complete fulfilment of all spiritual and worldly desires, consummated in your own daily experience. Isn’t that something worth striving for?

So I believed. So all the books told me. But I made a mistake.

I thought that in order to overcome very strong negative emotions I had to find very strong positive ones. And to find strong positive emotions I had to make an effort.

It didn’t occur to me at the time that I could start by appreciating weak positive emotions. I didn’t think that focusing on weak positives would get me anywhere.

Besides, mystics are so all-or-nothing. God is all and everything else is worthless! No wonder I kept searching for the ultimate answer.

Well now I’m learning that it’s enough to appreciate the very small, ordinary things I take for granted. It’s a nice day. I have good internet. The air is fresh. I had a nice walk. My baby girl is cute. I don’t have much work to do.

None of these things is earth-shattering but that’s the point. As a starting point they’re perfect because they already happen. They’re already reliable, so whatever else is going on I know that these things are working for me. Appreciating what works and these weak better feelings is a really good direction to take.

Practicing happiness 15

Are you practicing feeling better/less bad?

It’s very powerful. I continue to have profound insights as I practice feeling better – I even have to remind myself “feel better” rather than digging into these wonderful insights; that’s how enticing they are!

For example, I just had the insight that even my efforts to feel better are coloured by my belief that I am not good enough in myself.

Feeling better is still the answer, but I had an expectation of “and then…” as if feeling better was leading to something transformative.

I call this my “escape” mode, or my “search for answers” mode. It’s a maladaptive attempt to regulate painful emotions by putting all my hopes in a transformative enterprise.

Just feeling better is instead about learning to self-regulate emotions constructively. That’s what feeling good is all about – being able to stay in positive emotions and sustain them.

I rejected that kind of goal in the past because life just seemed too miserable for emotional-regulation to be of value. To my mind that amounted to wilful blindness or self-sedation. It was better to be unhappy and searching.

But now I can see how that conclusion was itself the product of my environment. There were reasons why I felt that awful to begin with. Unfortunately my forays into religion and spirituality convinced me that life was supposed to feel awful, that there was something fundamentally wrong with the human condition.

So as I feel better these beliefs and ideas crop up occasionally, and I just keep on feeling better, appreciating them as they’re let go. As feeling better becomes more reliable and stable, I don’t need these maladaptive thoughts and strategies anymore.